Like most Milwaukee Milkmen fans I was sad to see Adam Brett Walker II leave the team but happy to see him get a shot in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. When I read that he had signed with the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants I knew that this was likely Walker’s last shot at succeeding in a major league. With a great sense of trepidation, I settled in to watch Walker’s second stint in a major league.
Walker’s previous major league exposure had consisted of a five-game appearance in the 2021 Serie del Caribe. Playing for the Caimanes de Barranquilla squad he went 0-11 with a .000/.000/.000 slash line. It was a small sample size, but in that small sample, he showed many of the weaknesses that had plagued him throughout his career. His big looping swing struggled against fastballs up in the zone and he swang freely at many a breaking pitch out of the zone.
In the ensuing AA season, Walker dominated and appeared to have made some significant changes to his approach at the plate. He showed a level of patience not previously seen and somehow increased his power while shortening his swing just a mite. These positive changes led to a second straight AA Player of the Year award and likely gave him enough cred to make the Giants forget about his previous Serie del Caribe showing and give him a shot this season.
The 2022 season started on a high note for the Milwaukee native. He doubled home the winning run in the first game of the season. From there he settled into a role as a rather average player. If this had been the Walker of the 2020 and earlier timeframe it possibly would have spelled the end of his NPB career before it even got a chance to truly get off the ground. Luckily Walker stuck to the changes he had made in 2021 and worked his way through adjusting to the league. As of Monday morning, he has adjusted to the tune of a .298/.317/.516 slash line in 167 plate appearances. He’s piled on eight home runs and 11 doubles to make himself a true power threat for the Giants.
Walker isn’t dominating, but as he makes his adjustments to the league he is turning into a very good player for the Giants. His power numbers are right at home with the top of the league and he’s hitting for average. That helps to overcome the fact that he hasn’t been walking hardly at all, only twice so far this season. In order for Walker to have sustained success in the league, he will likely need to improve those walk numbers and find ways to better use his speed on the basepaths; one steal on the year.
Unlike years past I’m not doubtful that Walker can continue to adjust and become even better the more comfortable he gets with JPCL pitching. He will walk more and coaches willing he will steal more bases. It’s clear based on the way he made in-season tweaks throughout the year that Walker is now comfortable with his skills as a baseball player. For now, his high average makes up for the lack of walks and allows him to be an important, yet underappreciated cog in the Giants’ offense.
Should Walker continue to make the changes he needs to then the rest of the Central League best take notice. JPCL teams are already having trouble handling the Walker of the present, I’m not sure if they’d be able to handle a Walker at the top of his game. For Walker’s sake, and for the sake of good baseball, I hope that happens because Walker is someone who has put in the work to become a major league caliber player. His past struggles appear to be behind him and the potential is present for Walker to dominate in a major league. That’s quite the swing from where Walker was a couple of seasons ago and you absolutely love to see it unless you’re rooting against the Giants that is.
Lead photo courtesy of Adam Brett Walker II – Twitter